PhD Position Environmental Hydro(geo)logy in the Dutch Caribbean


Help saving coral reefs by researching how pollutants from land reach the sea!

Job description

A 4-year PhD position, financed by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), is available within the recently awarded research project SEALINK: Land, Sea, and Society: Linking terrestrial pollutants and inputs to nearshore coral reef growth to identify novel conservation options for the Dutch Caribbean.

SEALINK ( intends to provide a comprehensive understanding of the relation between land-based pollution and coral reef health in the Dutch Caribbean. A total of 9 PhD positions in varying scientific disciplines are available now including the one advertised here at TU Delft.

This PhD student at TU Delft on chemical hydro(geo)logy together with a fellow PhD student on physical hydro(geo)logy at WUR aim within SEALINK to improve the mechanistic understanding of how exactly various pollutants (e.g. nutrients, organic micro-pollutants, pathogens, sediments) reach the sea via run-off overland and via groundwater flow underground.

With the aim to ultimately support effective land and water (including sanitary) management at the focus islands of Curaçao and St. Eustatius. These 2 PhD students will work closely together during collaborative and extensive field work campaigns (about 3 months every year through CARMABI in Curaçao and CSNI at St. Eustatius). Both state-of-the-art and novel field measurement methods including geophysics, tracer tests, and radon isotope analysis will be applied. The field data will be modelled with numerical (ground)water flow and pollutant transport models.

You will be mainly supervised by daily supervisor dr. Boris van Breukelen (TU Delft) and be in regular contact with dr. Victor Bense (WUR). Various SEALINK supervisors and collaborators will provide additional specific expertise.

This PhD position at TU Delft will focus on mapping of groundwater and run-off water quality, tracing of water flows and pollutants along pathways from land into sea (including submarine groundwater discharge), and mathematical modelling linking pollution sources like leaking sewage infrastructure, to (ground)water quality, and pollutant fluxes from land to sea.

The PhD position at WUR will focus on the extensive measuring and modelling of groundwater recharge and the overland and subsurface water fluxes from land to sea. Both PhDs will assess with models the potential effects of various management scenarios.


  • Relevant Master degree in Hydrogeology/Hydrology, Environmental Sciences, Earth Sciences, or Engineering
  • Experience with independently conducting hydro(geo)logical field work
  • Willingness to spend considerable time in the Caribbean (3-4 months every year)
  • Expertise in hydrochemistry and interpretation of groundwater quality data
  • Experience with scientific programming, numerical modelling of groundwater flow and solute transport, and preferably multivariate statistics
  • Fluency in English, excellent writing skills
  • Good pro-active communication skills and ability to work well in a team

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation. 


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact! 


Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource depletion, urbanisation and the availability of clean water, conducted  in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced that Open Science helps to achieve our goals and supports its scientists in integrating Open Science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in seven departments including Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Hydraulic Engineering, and Water Management.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences. 

Department of Water Management

In the Department of Water Management, about 35 full time staff members, 120 PhD students, and 20 post-docs, teach and perform research on the full breadth of water management ranging from meteorology, groundwater and surface water hydrology, urban water infrastructure, to water treatment and re-use. Our quality of research, viability, and societal relevance was recently rated as ‘excellent’, meaning internationally leading in its field of expertise. Researchers in the Water Management department like to take the “path less travelled” in research and education to produce path-breaking and original advances in understanding and solving complex water engineering challenges.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Boris van Breukelen, phone: +31 (0)15-2785227, e-mail:

If you want to know more about the position that is available at WUR, check it here.